The Daily Circuit: Dubai property a seller’s market + Qatar fishes for startups – The Circuit – The Circuit

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👋 Hello from the Middle East!

Today in the Daily Circuit, we’re looking at Day 1 of the FII Priority conference in Miami, Qatar’s warm embrace of startups ahead of next week’s Web Summit, the entrée of South Korea’s H2O digital hotels to the UAE and the promise of fresh VC funds in Cairo from Sawari Ventures. Happy Founding Day to those in Saudi Arabia. Up first: a seller’s market emerges in Dubai.

Buy/sell, rent/lease residential &
commercials real estate properties.

A three-year price rally for Dubai property has some declaring that an affordability crisis is taking shape in the UAE’s most populous emirate. It has also made for a seller’s market, as analysts predict a slowdown is coming in 2024 and investors are cashing out now. Property prices crossed the 2014 peak last year amid unprecedented demand, fueled by surging rental prices and a rising population. Russian buyers and a post-pandemic bump has also spurred house sales in the famously safe UAE.

Sellers are positioned well, according to a study by Betterhomes, one of the city’s biggest real estate firms, and are now capitalizing on a surge in property transactions and escalating prices driven by heightened buyer demand.

A seller’s market in Dubai signifies robust demand, limited inventory and a consistent trend of delivering elevated returns to both investors and end-users, according to Toni Abou Jaoude, a Betterhomes sales manager. Betterhomes calculated a significant increase in value from 2020 when the price increases began, ranging from a conservative estimate of 50% to as high as 200% in certain areas of Dubai.

A cooling-off period is expected. Mayed Alrashdi, a research analyst at Emirates NBD, told Khaleej Times headwinds are expected in 2024 as high-interest rates prevail and new units come onto the market. “The anticipated increase in supply, comprising 41,500 apartments and 18,500 villas in 2024, should help to stabilize residential real estate prices this year,” he said.

As Qatar prepares to host next week’s Web Summit extravaganza, government planners are trying to attract early-stage tech companies to set up shop in the country. One of those efforts, Startup Qatar, was rolled out on Wednesday, offering free visas, tax waivers, licenses, office space and funding to promising tech firms. All the services are described and accessible through the campaign’s website and will be promoted heavily at Web Summit Qatar. The conference, which opens Feb. 26 at the Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre, expects more than 1,100 startups from 80 countries. Tickets are already sold out.

Nvidia Corp.’s latest glowing sales projections are reverberating through Middle East tech hubs that have been riding the AI craze and the push to produce more advanced semiconductors. The Silicon Valley chipmaker said on Wednesday it expects first-quarter revenue of about $24 billion, topping analyst estimates by $2 billion and setting off a 9% surge in the company’s shares. Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang appeared at last week’s World Governments Summit in Dubai, where he said that every country should assemble its own AI infrastructure. Last year, Huang announced that Nvidia is building its most advanced generative AI cloud supercomputer at its R&D center in Israel.

Oman Investment Authority: Oman’s sovereign wealth fund appointed Lazard Inc. to advise on a potential IPO of the state-owned Oman Electricity Transmission Co., Bloomberg reports.

Mubadala: Mubadala Investment Co. has partnered with primary investors and private equity firms, including Stone Point Capital and Clayton Dubilier & Rice, to purchase the remaining stake in an insurance brokerage business from US-based Truist Financial Corporation. Zamp, a Mubadala-backed food retailer that operates Burger King in Brazil, is in talks to take over the Starbucks franchise from its current owner that is in bankruptcy proceedings.

Qatar Investment Authority: Ascend Elements, a Westborough, Mass.-based developer of sustainable battery materials for electric vehicles backed by the QIA, raised $162 million in new equity investments to build a new 1 million square foot sustainable lithium-ion battery plant in Kentucky.

🏗️ Going Up: Construction costs in Saudi Arabia are projected to rise by up to 7% in 2024, according to a new report by Currie & Brown.

🩺 Doctor’s Orders: Saudi healthcare firm Al-Modawat will start trading next week on the Tadawul Stock Exchange after selling 20% of its shares in a Feb 5 IPO.

🚙 Driving Mideast: Chinese electric vehicle company XPENG announced plans to expand to the Middle East, with a partnership deal with Ali&Sons for the UAE market.

🇰🇷 Capital HQ: H2O, a South Korean digital innovation company in the hospitality industry, has established its regional headquarters in Abu Dhabi in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office.

📦 Fair Trade: About 7,000 delegates are expected to descend on Abu Dhabi next week for the World Trade Organisation’s 13th Ministerial Conference, faced with the tough task of brokering key trade agreements, The National reports.

🚢 Ship Builders: Abu Dhabi defense conglomerate EDGE said it will launch a $32 billion joint venture to build naval vessels with Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri.

📚 Study Buddy: Thiqa Tutoring, a UAE edtech startup, raised $300,000 from investors Mashael Fairooz, founder of JEO Capital, and Lamya Mahmood, CEO of Lamya Group.

💵 Exit Strategy: Egypt’s Banque Misr racked up $100 million in exits last year and is so far planning in 2024 to sell off its investments in at least seven companies for about $50 million.

🤖 AI Images: Bria, an Israeli startup that develops visual generative AI applications, raised $24 million in a Series A funding round led by GFT Ventures, Intel Capital, and Entrée Capital.

⌨️ Photonic Funds: DustPhotonics, an Israeli startup that develops silicon optical networks for massive data centers and AI applications, raised $24 million.

💰 New Capital: Cairo-based venture capital firm Sawari Ventures will launch a new fund to back start-ups in Egypt with an investment goal of around $150 million.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz received congratulatory messages for the kingdom’s Founding Day, which is celebrated today, from a range of Arab leaders including the Sultan of Oman, Haitham bin Tarik, and the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed met with Gianni Infantino, President of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), on Wednesday at Qasr Al Bahr in Abu Dhabi. Infantino is in the UAE to attend the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup tournament in Dubai.

The Future Investment Institute’s Priority Summit gets underway today in Miami with a packed lineup tackling opportunities in alternative assets, the advent of AI and the economic consequences of conflict. Gulf moderating favorite Eithne Treanor is in conversation with PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan to start the day. Elsewhere on the program, CEO of Honeywell Vimal Kapur, Josh Harris of Palantir, Google’s Caroline Yap, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury now of Liberty Strategic Capital, Steve Mnuchin, Affinity Partners’ Jared Kushner, entrepreneurs Inna Braverman and Billy Thalheimer and Dr. Mehmet Oz are all set to speak. And another former Treasury chief, Larry Summers, rounds out the day.

Jerry Inzerillo, CEO of Diriyah Gate Development Authority Group, talked about Saudi Arabia’s rich history in an interview on Founding Day: “Founding Day for all of us in Diriyah is special. It’s who we are,” he told Arab News.

🌴 Modern R&R: Saudi Arabia’s NEOM mega-project announced plans for a new wellness retreat on the mountainous Gulf of Aqaba coast. Elanan will have 80 rooms and suites and aims to provide a modern take on relaxation, with subtle use of technology. The new project joins eight other new resorts from NEOM on the Gulf of Aqaba.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed, a member of the UAE royal family and the Ruler’s Representative in the Al Dhafra Region, met on Wednesday with a delegation from the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Centre, including astronaut Sultan Al Neyadi who joined the crew of the International Space Station last year for six months. (Photo: Abu Dhabi Media Office)

Feb. 19-23, Dubai, UAE. Gulfood. Exhibitors from 127 countries attend food and beverage industry’s largest conference in the Middle East. Dubai International Conference Centre.

Feb. 21-22, Dubai, UAE: Step Conference. The Dubai edition of the leading tech festival for emerging markets. Internet City.

Feb. 22-23, Miami Beach, FL: FII Priority Miami. A summit on disruptive technology and investment trends hosted by the Future Investment Initiative Institute. Faena Hotel Miami Beach.

Feb. 24-25, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Berklee Abu Dhabi Music Summit. A summit that dives into the basics of the music business, providing independent artists with a roadmap to develop their careers. Berklee Abu Dhabi.

Feb. 26-29, Doha, Qatar: Web Summit Qatar. A Middle East edition of the technology crowd mega-event, gathering investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders. Doha Exhibition and Convention Centre. 

Feb. 28-29, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Investopia. A gathering of investors hosted by SALT and Investopia, an investment platform launched by the UAE Ministry of Economy and backed by Mubadala and the Department of Economic Development. St. Regis Saadiyat. 

Feb. 29-March 2, Sakhir, Bahrain: Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. Bahrain International Circuit.

March 1, Abu Dhabi, UAE: Abu Dhabi Family Office Summit. One of the largest meetings in the region for family office leaders and investors. Saadiyat Rotana.  

March 4-7, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: LEAP. A global technology conference for developers, startups, investors, C-suite and media. King Abdul Aziz International Conference Center.

March 5-6, Doha, Qatar: International LNG Forum. Gathering of industry leaders and key stakeholders to discuss the future of gas in a key export market. InterContinental Doha Beach. 

March 7-9, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: Formula 1 STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

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